Breast Cancer Awareness: Overseas, At Home, and in Jewish Communities
I recently returned from Uganda where I spent three months volunteering with a health rights organization. Next door to the NGO at which volunteered is the UgandaWomen's Cancer Support Organization (UWOCASO) run by a small, courageousgroup of breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer survivors.
After spending many afternoons chatting with the women of UWOCASO and listening to their stories, I learned just how taboo women's health issues -- particularly breast cancer -- are in Ugandan society. There's still a widespread belief that breast cancer is the product of witch craft or the sign of a woman who is possessed by the "devil." Those who do understand the medical issues of the disease often ignore the emotional and psychological tolls experienced bypeople who are affected. In Uganda, there are no breast cancer public advocacy efforts, no pink ribbons, no public awareness campaigns ... which makes me all the more grateful for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. I am especially appreciative of the efforts among Jewish women who have put women's health issues on the radar and have situated breast cancer in cultural and communal contexts. Organizations like Sharsheret provide culturally sensitive support to young Jewish women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer as well as to those facing the risk of developing breast cancer in the future. Sharsheret also offers related resources for Jewish communities and health care organizations.
To learn about some of the Jewish women involved in breast cancer advocacy, check out the Jewish Women's Archive's new Breast Cancer Awareness Month Feature and listen to our podcast with nurse and breast cancer activist Judi Hirshfield Bartek, who discusses the impact of her family's breast cancer legacy on her own activism.